In less than ten days, four asteroids will impact the Earth and no place on the planet can provide refuge from the collisions
“We’re going to use nine megaton warheads in space and we’re not sure they’re large enough to be effective. Why would you even consider using kiloton-range surface-to-air warheads as back-up?” The answer was succinct. “Because they’re all we have.”
Actual CNN News Item: February 2008 - U.S. Navy uses missile defense system for first time to successfully down errant satellite.
Actual Fox News Item: March 2009 - A small asteroid buzzed by Earth Monday ... less than twice as far out as many telecommunications satellites. Had 2009 DD45 hit the Earth, it would have exploded on or near the surface with the force of a large nuclear blast — not very reassuring when you consider humanity had only about three days' notice.
Actual Daily Mail news Item: May 2011 - A massive asteroid [YU55] will fly within the moon's orbit narrowly missing Earth ... on November 8. ... If it was to hit Earth, it would exert a force the equivalent of 65,000 atomic bombs and leave a crater six miles wide and 2,000ft deep.
Actual AP News Item: February 15, 2013 - ... nearly 1,000 people have sought help for injuries after a meteor streaked through the sky and exploded Friday over Russia's Ural Mountains with the power of an atomic bomb. ... The meteor -- estimated to be about 10 tons -- entered the Earth's atmosphere at a hypersonic speed of at least 33,000 mph and shattered about 18-32 miles above the ground ... It released the energy of several kilotons above the Chelyabinsk region ...
What do these news items have to do with Gary Stephens' novel, Epiphany? In a story seemingly ripped from headlines, Epiphany, published in early November 2007 chillingly predicts the future ... OUR future.
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Soon after NASA detects huge asteroids hurtling toward California, the President announces a plan to deploy nuclear warheads from the space shuttle to destroy them. As the West Coast evacuates, General Jack Harrison, a man haunted by nightmares from a long ago war, is chosen to implement a controversial and top-secret backup plan should the shuttle mission fail.
Against a clock that seems to be ticking far too fast, Jack, two long-time comrades, and a group of men and women little different from any of us feverishly work to turn a Cold War museum into an operational Nike-Hercules missile battery. Their bold attempt to blend new and old technologies to thwart the unthinkable leaves them questioning whether their mission is as futile as it is daring. The only thing of which they are certain is that if they fail, they die.
This intricately woven story about the meeting of technology and faith challenges beliefs and serves as warning to us all of a natural disaster that is not only possible, but probable—and for which the world is still defenseless.
Amazon Reader Reviews
| Not A Typical Disaster Story
Impeccably researched, Epiphany approaches a familiar techno-thriller plot in an unfamiliar way - realistically. Author Gary Stephens' answers to the question of how an unprepared world might confront a space object collision with little advance warning are unsettling, and as would likely be the case if such an event were to actually happen, the reader shouldn't expect a completely tidy ending. Epiphany's characters are not the larger-than-life superheroes typical of this novel's genre. Instead, Stephens has populated his story with characters who are "everyman" (and woman). They exhibit the human virtues and flaws we all possess, and you will identify with and care about the fates of these ordinary people caught up in extraordinary circumstances.
, December 11, 2007
| Extremely compelling
Although I am typically not a fan of action novels, I found that I could not put this one down. Gary Stephens constructs his characters in a way that makes the reader feel instantly bonded with them. I found myself completely wrapped up in their story and cheering for the success of those involved with the mission. The book has a lot of military references to it, however as someone unfamiliar with the technical language of the novel I found that the author made everything clear without getting caught up in wordy explanations. This novel is definitely one I will enjoy reading again.
, December 12, 2007
Epiphany is available in Kindle, Nook, paperback or hardcover from Amazon and other major booksellers
MONDAY, DECEMBER 24th
ABOARD PPA FLIGHT 401
4:30 PM CST
Most of the day had been a nightmare. The senior flight attendant’s evacuation passengers had been maddeningly rude and demanding, and the worst of these held ticket vouchers paid for by FEMA. The agency had provided vouchers to anyone who said they couldn’t afford to pay, and while some people were truly needy, many just took advantage of the evacuation’s confusion to obtain a free ticket.
“Pan Pacific Four Oh One Heavy, expect runway one eight left.”
“Expect one eight left. Four Oh One.”
Her final flight of the evacuation’s first day was almost at an end and this flight, at least, had provided one pleasant diversion.
She stretched to fasten the jump seat’s shoulder harness, and her breasts strained against her blouse and jacket. The man in the first class aisle seat opposite hers smiled again. He had charmed her with his witty conversation and attention throughout the flight. About her age, he was impeccably dressed in an expensive and perfectly tailored suit. Well-tanned and ruggedly handsome, his flirting had been seductive.
“Four Oh One Heavy, descend and maintain four thousand.”
“Four thousand. Four Oh One.”
Certain he was watching; she slowly crossed her legs in an exaggerated motion.
That’s right, go ahead and look.
He had helped her get through this day and he could have as much of an eyeful as he liked. She felt deliciously wicked and aroused.
He bent over and retrieved his briefcase from under the seat, but his eyes never left her legs. She accommodated him by smiling and oh so slowly shifting her crossed knee higher, exposing almost all of her shapely thighs.
He took his time returning to a sitting position, the briefcase now in his lap.
“Four Oh One Heavy, reduce your speed to two thirty, sir.”
“Two thirty. Four Oh One.”
“I’m sorry,” she purred. “We’re almost on the ground. You really need to put that back under your seat.”
What a wonderful game!
He smiled again, started to return his briefcase to the space beneath his seat, and she gave him another good, long look at her legs.
“Four Oh One Heavy, you are cleared to land one eight left.”
“Roger, cleared to land one eight left. Four Oh One.”
She thought it cruel Fate that their paths hadn’t crossed before today. Life really was too short.
5:10 PM CST
“Will we have a rare white Christmas here in the Valley? We’ll let you know. Our Storm Force Thirty-One forecast is up next.”
The local news broadcast went to a commercial, which quickly gave way to a familiar trumpet riff signaling breaking news.
“This is an ABC News special report,” a baritone voice intoned. An attractive, dark-haired female reporter at the network’s news set replaced the ABC logo.
“Good evening, everyone. Liz Yarborough reporting from New York. ABC News has just learned that a Pan Pacific Airlines jetliner, Flight 401 en route from San Francisco to Dallas, crashed on landing about thirty minutes ago at the Dallas-Fort Worth Air—”
The scream was inhuman in its terror and anguish. Carol dashed from the kitchen to her living room, barely aware of the dinner plate slipping from her fingers and shattering on the kitchen floor.
“… no word on casualties yet, but unconfirmed reports are that the airliner drifted to the side of its intended runway just before landing, causing it to strike as many as three other aircraft on an adjacent taxiway.
“Once again, a Pan Pacific Airlines jetliner has crashed while attempting to land at …”
Carol fought back the same panic and hysteria that gripped her daughter as she enfolded Ruth and Laurie in her arms.
Ruth sobbed on her knees in front of the TV, while a badly frightened Laurie screamed, “What’s wrong, Mommy? What’s wrong?”
6:00 PM CST
Ruth hit the redial on her mother’s phone for what seemed to be the hundredth time, only to have the busy signal mock her again. She disconnected and pressed the redial button again.
Carol heard the “official” phone ring in Jack’s den, and she left Ruth’s side to answer it.
“General Harrison’s quarters. Carol Harrison spea—”
“Mom, it’s Lee,” the voice on the other end interrupted. “I’m in Memphis. Would you get Ruth for me, please?”
“Lee! We were worried you were involved in—”
“Yeah, I know. I’m fine, Mom.”
Ruth heard her mother call out her husband’s name and she and Laurie ran to the den.
“Lee! I’ve been out of my mind here!” Ruth half-cried into the phone that she ripped out of Carol’s hand. “Where are you?”
“Calm down, babe,” he soothed. “I’m okay. We were descending into the Dallas area when the crash happened and they closed the airport. I tried to get a divert to Huntsville, but the best I could do was Memphis.”
“I panicked when it came over the TV. What happened? Do you know anyone on that flight?”
“Nobody on the one that went down, but I have other bad news. You’d better brace yourself. The first plane it hit on the ground was one of ours, too. It was Ed Kelly’s, and it blew up on the taxiway.”
“Oh, no! Oh dear God, no! Does Claire know?”
Ruth started crying again. The Kellys were neighbors and close friends.
“Claire and the kids were flying with him today. She and the kids were on their way to stay with her parents.” He felt hot tears stream down his cheeks. “I … I talked with them at the airport today before they left.”
The room swirled before Ruth’s eyes. An entire family she had known for years was gone. She dropped hard into her father’s desk chair and put her head between her knees. She sucked in deep breaths and her eyesight, which had closed to tunnel vision, slowly returned to normal.
“I’m gonna borrow Mom’s car and come stay with you tonight.”
“No.” Lee tried hard to keep his choking voice under control. “It’s too far, and that highway’s too dangerous at night. It’s just a few more days and I’ll be there with you.”
“I’m coming, Lee, and that’s that. It’s only a three or four hour drive. I’ll be fine. And Mom won’t mind keeping Laurie for the night.”
Knowing it would be useless to argue, he gave in.
“Okay, but bring Laurie with you. She should be with us right now. Besides, you won’t drive like a maniac if she’s in the car, too.”
8:00 PM EST
Clyde Gamble opened the front door and his eyes widened in surprise when he got a good look at the uniformed figure under the porch light.
“Lordy, I don’t believe it. Captain Harrison! Why didn’t you say it was you on the phone? Come in!”
Clyde enthusiastically pumped Jack’s hand as Jack entered the modest Dutch colonial in Pittsburgh’s Crafton Heights.
“Alicia! You remember Captain Harrison. When we were stationed in New Jersey?”
“Clyde. For Pete’s sake. He’s a three-star general!” Alicia Gamble hissed at her husband.
“I have to tell you, Reverend,” Jack said with a broad smile, “the years have been a lot kinder to you and your lovely wife than they’ve been to me.”
“Oh, just listen to you,” Alicia blushed.
The dinner and pleasant conversation were a welcome respite from the tension of the past four days. By the time they’d finished dessert and coffee, Jack wished he could just end the evening with a thank you and a promise to stay in touch. But he knew that wasn’t possible, and reluctantly turned to the reason for his visit.
“Alicia, I want to do this,” Clyde said when Jack had finished explaining. “I believe the Lord would want me … would want us … to do whatever we can to prevent this catastrophe.”
“You know, I’ve often thought when Clyde really wants to do something he sometimes says the Lord wants him to do it,” Alicia confided to Jack, as if Clyde weren’t in the room. “Just a little extra insurance to make sure I’ll say it’s okay.
“I won’t lie to you. The risks and uncertainties you’re talking about here, the questions you don’t have answers for; well I don’t feel good about that at all. No sir, not at all. But, this time I think Clyde’s right about what the Lord would want. So, yes. We’re in.”
“Thank you,” Jack said, relieved. “Thank you both.”
What Jack had not confided to the Gambles or anyone else was that he had already decided to kill the project if Clyde turned him down. There was no time left to find someone else, and after his earlier argument with Carol, he had reconsidered the idea of putting the missile assembly burden on Gus and decided that it was just too risky.
“Mrs. Gamble, I’ve arranged for you to fly to Huntsville, Alabama tomorrow to be with the other families; and Reverend, you and I are booked to San Francisco. If you still have any uniforms that fit, you might pack them.”
“Are you tellin’ me I’m back on active duty?”
“I don’t know if that’ll be necessary, yet. If I have to bring you back on for legal purposes, I’ll make sure the orders are for no more than fourteen days. That much I can promise you.”
“If we’re flying out together tomorrow, where are your bags?” Clyde asked.
“Hotel room near the airport. I dropped them off there.”
“You’re not spendin’ Christmas Eve in any hotel,” Clyde said. “You stay here with us tonight. We’ll pick up your stuff on the way to the airport in the morning.”
“Thanks, Reverend, but I can’t impose on you two like that.”
“Nonsense. We insist.”
“Now wait a minute, you two,” Alicia interrupted. “There’re a few more things to settle here. I’m not going to Alabama, and tomorrow is Christmas and you have another church service to conduct, Clyde Gamble. Now, settle down here and let’s think this through.”
Clyde started to answer and then fell silent; doing what his wife had commanded—think this through.
Jack knew better than to involve himself in this part of the discussion, which was just between the pastor and his wife, and he busied himself with taking in the room’s furnishings, most of which were unmistakably from Germany and almost certainly brought back by the couple from Clyde’s tours of duty there. One piece, a beautiful oak wall unit, a shrank, with softly lit display cases and an entertainment center was some seven feet tall and almost a dozen feet long and it dominated the room.
Jack had only taken brief notice of the Christmas tree in front of the living room picture window when he first entered the home. Now, he examined it more closely and realized that decades-old bubble lights and strings of old-fashioned narrow, fluted candle flame lights of red, blue, green, orange, and yellow illuminated it. Clyde must have kept and carefully preserved these decorations since his youth. Jack breathed in the Scotch pine’s scent and it aroused in him nearly forgotten Christmas images from his childhood. Everything about this home and these people was warm and welcoming, and he knew in this moment that he would accept the Gamble’s invitation to stay the night.
“We’ll call Pastor Barnes and ask him to take the service tomorrow,” Clyde finally offered. “We can say my sister in New York’s taken ill, and I’ve gone to be with her. How about that?”
“It’s fine, except for the we part,” Alicia answered. “If there’s any fibbing to be done, you’re going to be the one doing it.”
Clyde’s shrug indicated that he didn’t have a problem with a fib in this case.
“Well if that’s settled, why don’t you want to be in Huntsville with the others?” Jack asked her.
“General, we have a congregation here. My place is with them. And, I think it would be best if I was around to quiet any rumors about Clyde’s leaving all of a sudden, too.”
“Why should there be any rumors? I thought we just decided on the reason for his absence.”
“Yes, we did. But our congregation, fine people though they are, tend to be gossipy. Some of them live on this street, and if any of them saw you arrive or see you two leave together tomorrow, there’s no telling what they’ll come up with. They all know he’s retired from the Army and … just believe me when I tell you it’s best if I’m here to stop the tongue-wagging.”
Although Clyde Gamble’s skills were essential to the mission, Alicia’s ability to recognize and deal with a problem, especially under these circumstances, was what Jack found impressive. If only he had a staff of Alicia Gambles. Still, he wasn’t entirely comfortable with leaving the elderly woman here alone.
“Okay, Mrs. Gamble, if that’s what you want. I’m going to give you my home phone number where you can reach my wife, Carol, though. If you need anything at all, and I mean anything, don’t hesitate to call her any time of the day or night.”
Alicia took Jack’s hand in hers. “Thank you, General. I appreciate that.”